North coast macadamia, dairy and stonefruit farmers should be eligible for immediate flood aid like their counterparts in Queensland, according to Australian Macadamia Society CEO Jolyon Burnett, who has accused the state Liberal/National government of ‘deliberately delaying the process’.
Mr Burnett said macadamia farmers had been particularly hard hit by ex-cyclone Oswald but he had also heard of cases of stonefruit farmers losing their crops and netting.
He has asked emergency services minister Michael Gallacher to please explain why the sate government has withheld the same recovery assistance from local farmers that the Queensland government granted its farmers weeks ago.
‘The NSW government has completely abandoned our farmers in their time of great need. They appear to be deliberating delaying this process and procrastinating until it’s too late. If they were never intending to seek Category C for the northern rivers they should have been honest about it and let growers get on with making hard decisions.
‘It’s now more than a month since the disaster and many of our growers are struggling to get back on their feet and back on track for harvest with no idea as to whether they’ll get the help they need to rebuild their orchards. Unless some help comes soon it will be a very disappointing harvest for growers who have poured their heart and soul into this season’s crop.’
More than four weeks after Oswald devastated 80 per cent of the region’s macadamia farms, resulting in $13 million of lost production and a cleanup bill of more than $7 million, growers are still unable to access the Category C and D grants that would assist cleanup and recovery efforts.
Mr Burnett described the lack of support as a slap in the face for our local farmers, especially given the majority of Queensland macadamia growers were extended Category C assistance five weeks ago, with the remainder offered Category C assistance two weeks ago.
Harder hit than Qld
‘The damage in the northern rivers is comparable to the damage caused in Queensland, and in many cases NSW farmers have been hit harder,’ said Mr Burnett, adding that 80 per cent of the region’s 9,000 hectares of macadamia orchards had suffered varying degrees of damage.
Following the severe weather in January the AMS surveyed its growers, and called for an immediate Category C declaration of assistance in the hardest hit areas. It worked hard to provide government with comprehensive information – summarising the amount of damage to orchards – to justify the call for support. But that was five weeks ago.
Mr Burnett said he had written to Minister Gallacher because he was frustrated at not being able to get any answers about when a decision regarding assistance would be made. His request to see a copy of the submission the NSW Department of Primary Industries compiled for the government three weeks ago was also denied. The director general Richard Sheldrake has not returned calls.
‘We want answers now. It’s not just our industry that is suffering – it’s also the dairy, banana, avocado, cane, citrus, coffee and berry industries who need urgent assistance,’ said Mr Burnett.